I think about the place we met, the first time I saw you. It nearly stops this bruised heart I carry within me, the heart I can hardly call my own. You walked in with that black eye, freshly showered, with your teammates in tow. You stole my heart from the very first look, and your presence made me so nervous; it’s an old cliché, but you really did make me weak in the knees.
I should have never met your gaze that very first day. I should have known this small town could not hold both of us; there was only ever room for one. Because since that day, I have been fighting, kicking, screaming, throwing fist after fist in an attempt to reclaim what is mine. My heart, my soul, and my wild spirit – it isn’t yours to keep. I’m not just another black-and-blue, battered, beating muscle for you to steal. My heart is weakly pumping, showing almost no sign of life. I have been fighting to regain strength and all of the oxygen it has lost in this combat, the ultimate fight against the ghost of you.
You do not get to add another damaged vessel to your collection. You have no right to admire yet another broken heart trophy displayed on your shelf of prized possessions. I refuse to be just another notch on your belt.
I was always so much more to you than that; you know it, and I know it.
So why is it that, as far as I run in the direction of my healing to a new beginning, a fresh chapter in the story of my life, I still cannot outrun you? Why do I still see you when I close my eyes to sleep? Why do I still dream so vividly about you, about our future? My dreams of you startle me awake, and for one blissfully unbroken moment I believe it is true; I believe it’s still you and I.
Why wasn’t forever ours to keep? Why couldn’t we beat the odds instead of becoming another devastating statistic, another broken relationship, another story left unfinished?
You used to leave me little love notes; you would wake me up with hot tea and leave me notes written in your messy, endearing handwriting. One love note you left me that I will never be able to forget said, “You are my once in a lifetime.”
Do you know how much that little piece of paper, with those words scribbled on it, haunts me to this day?
On the night we met, do you remember how we bonded over our shared love of polka music? And we talked till the Sunday morning sun started to rise. I fell in love with you that night, having just met you hours before. Discovering that we both had this quirky and cute little anecdote in common made my 17-year old heart flutter and swell to five times its original size.
You have no idea what these memories do to me, how they cause me to crumble under their soul-crushing weight. You didn’t stay to swim the deep waters with me, to stand up against the crashing waves with me, to drive down washboard dirt roads, holding onto one another so tight. You promised we would come out on the other side of every obstacle that threatened to break us, but you broke so many promises that I’ve officially lost count.
You deserted me.
I always needed you; every day of my life was lighter and more purpose-filled with you in it. Every time you surprised me when you showed up at my house, every time you wrapped me in your arms and rested your head on mine, because we were the perfect height for each other – two puzzle pieces fitting together in the most seamless and natural way.
You made me breathe easier, you calmed my anxieties with your big bear hugs, and you knocked me out with those forehead kisses that I could never quite get enough of. We were living a country love song, the kind that people always sing about. On a warm summer night at a country music festival, we danced to our Eric Church song together, and I swear I had never felt more happy, loved, and content in that moment. You put me on your shoulders to see Keith Urban perform because I was too short and I couldn’t see, and one of the festival-goers nearby asked if we were married, to which we responded, “No, we’re still dating.” But that’s the thing, our love was so effortless. I was drowning in you from the moment I laid eyes on you.
Loving you was so damn easy; it was like an intake of breath, the most effortless act. Everyone around us, from our loved ones to acquaintances, could see how much we loved and adored each other. We complemented each other to a T—a small-town hockey star and a homegrown ringette player with almost-identical lineage and country upbringings. I often found myself thinking, ‘Our love is so rare and heaven-sent; we found each other at such a young age.’ I thanked my lucky stars that I had found my twin flame. I felt blessed beyond measure that we would have so many years together because we found each other at ages 17 and 19.
You always made me feel so beautiful, cherished, and adored. But since you left, I have been fighting for my self-esteem to return to me. You shattered my confidence—at the end of our relationship, you made me feel so undesirable, so unworthy of your love. The way I hugged you but you didn’t hug me back, your arms just hung by your sides, and the way I begged you to fight for us, but you stood there in silence, a blank look on your face that was so unrecognizable, so uncharacteristic of you. You acted as if you were disgusted with me, and that stays in my mind vividly – it torments me daily.
You abandoned me, and now I cannot allow another human into my heart for fear that I will have to go through this grueling process of loss once again. You acted like you were disgusted with me, and that has stayed with me to this very day. The memory of you becoming so distant, seemingly overnight, keeps me from letting anyone else in; my boundaries remain intact, and I retreat into myself.
My hope is that I will heal from the damage you caused, that I will finally be able to move on. I vow to wear my heartbreak like a badge of honor, because it is a testament to how wholeheartedly I love and the purity of my heart. I refuse to feel shame for the scars you left on my skin, along my spine, and on this exhausted heart of mine.